A unprecedented new campaign by the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America teaches VA employees and veterans how to become the next Edward Snowden.

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U.S. Veterans Affairs Secretary, retired general Eric Shinseki, in 2012. Tim Shaffer / Reuters / Reuters

WASHINGTON — After the deaths of at least 40 veterans on a health care waiting list, the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America will announce Thursday an online whistleblower project meant to expose widespread problems plaguing the Veterans Administration health care system.

The online kit will instruct veterans on best practices for reporting abuses and potentially leaking documents. The tools are critical now, organizers say, when veterans face a health care system they say is in crisis and an Obama administration that has had a “chilling effect” on whistleblowing. The White House says it values and protects whistleblowers.

Asking VA employees to go outside the system and straight to the public with problems is in keeping with the military traditions veterans are taught to uphold, said IAVA Chief of Staff Derek Bennett, a former Army Captain and Special Assistant to General David Petraeus.

“As a veteran myself, I recognize the importance of the chain of command,” he said. “But as a former company commander, I know that my soldiers always had the opportunity to circumvent the chain of command if my work or my staff were part of the problem.”

The ongoing VA hospital scandal, which has seen top officials subpoenaed by Congress amid allegations that VA hospitals have covered up long wait times, has infuriated veterans’ groups, including the IAVA, which deals specifically with veterans of post-9/11 conflicts.

After delays at the Phoenix VA hospital went on so long that some veterans allegedly died while waiting for care, complaints about the overloaded VA hospital system have emerged all over the country. Veterans and congressional investigators have complained that it has been tough to get straight answers from inside the VA and its embattled leadership.

To combat the problem, the IAVA is joining with the Project On Government Oversight to launch VAOversight.org, a site specifically designed to help VA employees leak to POGO investigators and the media. POGO, which has long helped whistleblowers and other leakers get their information out, says the collaboration is the first of its kind in the group’s history.

The website and the whistleblower campaign will be announced at a Thursday press conference featuring IAVA leaders, POGO officials, and veterans. BuzzFeed was given an early look at the site and how the program works.

It recommends would-be leakers install the encrypted Tor software, mimicking Edward Snowden.

Even with the help provided by POGO, Newman said leaking remains a dangerous business, especially in the Obama era.

“Certainly the fear of reprisal is real,” he said. “We don’t have any personal knowledge of reprisals in the VA at the moment… but in general it’s the norm not the exception.”

The site offers detailed training in how to circumvent the stringent anti-leak efforts put in place across the government by the Obama administration, which has made cracking down on unauthorized leaks a priority.

“What we’ve seen with the Obama administration is the lengths they will go to try to keep things in house,” said Joe Newman, communications director at POGO.

Newman, a former journalist, said the Obama administration has for the most part carried over intense anti-leak programs launched in the George W. Bush administration. Changing technology and a changing emphasis on national security have focused attention on whistleblowers and investigating leaks, he said.

Still, Newman added, the Obama administration’s zeal to track down and punish leakers is well-documented.

“The thing that makes the Obama administration really stand out is the use of the Espionage Act. They’ve invoked it seven times [against leakers] and that’s more than every other administration combined when it comes to going after people who have leaked to the media,” he said. “That really puts the Obama administration in a different category as far the extent they’ll go to keep things secret.”

Bennett said Obama’s prosecutions have had the desired effect when it comes to leaks.

“If you just look at the number of whistleblower prosecutions, this administration is significantly higher than the previous administration,” he said. “I can imagine that post-Snowden, there is even more concern about that. So, yeah, I can imagine there’s a chilling effect.”

But the VA is not an intelligence agency, where even speaking to the media on any topic without authorization is strictly, forbidden. And successful whistleblowing has played a major role in the unfolding VA scandal. On Monday, employees at the Durham, North Carolina VA hospital were put on leave after a fellow employee alleged they falsified records to hide wait times.

While there are built-in reporting systems for problems, IAVA says internal systems aren’t working fast enough to fix the VA and more employees need to be encouraged to come forward. Bennett said veterans can’t wait for the problems inside the VA to be fixed.

“Our members are outraged and flabbergasted about the allegations that are coming out,” he said. “As somebody’s who’s not in the system, I don’t know their exact process [at the VA.] But clearly there is something about the culture or the structure that these employees…do not feel comfortable sharing internally.”

The White House says it appreciates and welcomes whistleblowing.

“The Obama administration has demonstrated a strong commitment to protecting whistleblowers,” an administration official said. “The president appointed strong advocates to the Office of Special Counsel and the Merit Systems Protection Board who have been widely praised. The President also signed the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2012, which improves whistleblower protections for Federal employees.”

Beyond the high-tech tools, Newman added, sometimes the simplest advice is the best when it comes to avoiding being caught as a leaker.

“FOR YOUR PROTECTION, DO NOT USE A GOVERNMENT OR CONTRACTOR PHONE, FAX, OR COMPUTER TO CONTACT POGO,” the IAVA-POGO site reads.

Read more: http://buzzfeed.com/evanmcsan/veterans-group-will-launch-whistleblower-project-after-va-ho

1. How the White House Smothered the News of Obama’s Trip to Afghanistan

One of the first American reporters to note early reports that President Obama was in Afghanistan last May, Zeke Miller chronicled the White House’s frantic — and ultimately futile — efforts to quiet the news as it rocketed through social media and the blogosphere.

2. Horror Hospital: The Most Shocking Photos and Testimony from the Dawood Military Hospital Scandal

A disturbing exposé by Michael Hastings and Rebecca Elliot of a U.S.-funded military hospital in Afghanistan that kept its patients in “Auschwitz-like conditions.”

3. How Same-Sex Marriage Supporters Beat the “Princess” Ad

Following same-sex marriage victories in four states in 2012, Chris Geidner reported exclusively on the behind-the-scenes research and confidential reports used by advocacy groups to shift the terms of the national debate.

4. For Thousands of Veterans, the New G.I. Bill Isn’t Working

In an investigative report, Rosie Gray revealed that the Department of Veterans Affairs was failing to deliver tuition checks and housing stipends to tens of thousands of veterans across the country — a story that prompted swift reforms and the introduction of new legislation to Congress.

5. Chelsea Clinton, TV’s Dork Diva, Struggles at NBC

Michael Hastings found that a host of the former First Daughter’s colleagues at NBC are less than thrilled with her privilege and performance at the network.

6. Welcome to Liberal America

On an election night that brought victories for same-sex marriage, pot legalization, and President Obama’s party, Ben Smith and Zeke Miller argued it was time for the Republican Party to adapt to a new America.

7. Valerie Jarrett Versus the Haters

Michael Hastings and Ruby Cramer painted one of the most revealing portraits yet of Valerie Jarrett, the enigmatic Obama confidante who spent 2012 facing down her haters and bolstering her influence in the White House.

8. Bryan Fischer’s Last Stand Against the Gays

In May, Rosie Gray beat every other major national outlet to publishing an in-depth profile of Bryan Fischer, the last, loudest, proudest anti-gay crusader in the Republican mainstream, who found himself at the center of the presidential campaign.

9. Where Todd Akin Is Coming From

Rebecca Berg provided an exclusive, and colorful, dispatch from an anti-abortion protest among congregants at Todd Akin’s church in Missouri — a scene that provided context to the candidate’s controversial remarks about “legitimate rape.”

10. At Harvard, Obama Dived into Diversity Fight

Andrew Kaczynski was the first to publish a video of a young Barack Obama praising Harvard Law professor Derrick Bell — a champion of the controversial “critical race theory” — during a campus protest over the lack of faculty diversity.

11. Cantor Urges Tolerance on Gays, Muslims

In an interview with John Stanton last July, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor foreshadowed the party-wide soul-searching that would take place after Election Day when he called on the GOP to be “the party of inclusion.”

12. Polygamists See Themselves in Romney, Obama Family Trees

McKay Coppins spent a week in July touring polygamist compounds and visiting with plural families in Utah, where the polygamist roots of both President Obama and Mitt Romney was a hot topic of conversation in this tightly knit American subculture.

13. Mitt Romney’s Advice for ObamaCare: Look at RomneyCare

As Mitt Romney tried to convince Republican primary voters of his opposition to Obamacare, Andrew Kaczynski was the first to surface a little-noticed 2009 op-ed in which the politician argued his universal health care plan in Massachusetts should be a model for the nation.

14. A Mormon Reporter on the Romney Bus

After spending a year on the campaign trail with the first Mormon presidential nominee, McKay Coppins wrote about the tense, conflicting experience of covering a coreligionist and candidate.

15. MoveOn Fights for a Role in the Obama Era

Ruby Cramer went inside MoveOn, providing a detailed account of the once dominant progressive group now struggling to retain relevance in the Obama era.

Read more: http://buzzfeed.com/buzzfeedpolitics/the-15-most-omg-buzzfeed-politics-stories-of-201

1. First and foremost, Happy Veteran’s Day. Thank you to all of the troops who have committed their lives to the defense of freedom.

There are over 2.3 million American veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. At least 20% of those veterans suffer from PTSD and/or Depression. Moreover, 50% of those with PTSD do not seek treatment.

2. Psychologists first recognized PTSD as a mental condition during World War I.

youtube / Via youtube.com

Soldiers described mental as well as medical symptoms after combat as “shell shock”. They give Miley’s twerk a run for its money.

3. For a long time, psychologists only studied PTSD in conjunction with soldiers who returned from combat.

4. Now, psychologists have expanded the definition of PTSD to include adults, adolescents, and children who have persistent mental and emotional stress occurring as a result of injury or severe psychological shock.

5. Severe traumatic experiences often include sexual assault or rape, exposure to intimate partner violence, exposure to community violence or other generalized forms of violence, as well as exposure to serious injury or threat of death.

6. Children can develop PTSD if they have lived through an event that could have caused someone else harm. This includes living in an environment where intimate partner violence takes place.

7. Patrick Stewart, Charlize Theron and Halle Berry are celebrities who have all reported being raised in violent, abusive homes, witnessing some form of intimate partner violence.

Professor Xavier (aka the father of all X-Men), Catwoman, and Snow White’s evil stepmother all had crappy parents.

8. Among individuals who are victims of a severe traumatic experience, 60-80% will develop PTSD.

Photo taken from an editorial spread in “12mag” portraying models with horrific injuries implicitly inflicted by male attackers.

9. An estimated 1 in 10 women develops PTSD in their lifetime. Women are twice as likely to develop PTSD as men.

10. 1 in 4 women will experience rape or sexual assault in their lifetime. At least 1/3 of those victims develop PTSD as a result.

11. Mariah Carey, Rihanna, Madonna, Robin Givens, Kate Moss, Whitney Houston, Tina Turner, and Pamela Anderson are all celebrities who have reported being victims of domestic violence.

12. The lifetime prevalence of PTSD in combat veterans is 10-30%.

13. More than 33% of youths exposed to community violence will develop PTSD.

14. Almost all of the children who witness a parental homicide or sexual assault develop PTSD.

15. As many as 90% of children who are sexually abused as a child develop PTSD.

16. As many as 75% of children exposed to a school shooting as a child develop PTSD. Think for a moment about the infamous Sandy Hook Elementary school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.

456 children were enrolled at the school at the time of the massacre. Statistically speaking, 350 of these children will have PTSD as a result of the trauma.

17. 71% of female military personnel develop PTSD due to sexual assault within the ranks.

There are no words to describe this shocking statistic.

Read more: http://buzzfeed.com/cammcmack/17-facts-that-will-completely-change-the-way-you-l-ghp6

The Veterans Administration should be providing the absolute highest quality of care in the country. Yet why is it that the exact opposite is happening?

While being ignored by the VA crisis intervention, Todd Nicely, a quadrupedal amputee, attempted suicide.

The rate of suicide for veterans in the U.S. is a whopping and unacceptable 22 a day. Clearly services need to be ramped up, yet they are not. Psychological counseling needs to be top notch, yet it is not. Treatment needs to be improved and expedited quickly. Yet nothing seems to change.

Here you have a guy, a quadruple amputee, who cant even be paid attention to. He was ignored by the VA and then he shot himself.

He was a Marine squad leader in Lakari, Afghanistan. On patrol he stepped on an IED. He survived, but lost both legs and hands.

He returned to the states and began living in a house designed to fit his new needs in Mississippi. No doubt the psychological toll was absolutely enormous.

Nevertheless, Nicely has been working to help wounded vets. Hes been serving as a role model with a message of inspiration. But we often forget that he himself is always in need of the same.

He had such a moment, where he needed to reach out. He knew what to do. He called the VA crisis center. He was angry and the counselor could not handle his anger issues, so he was told to calm down and call back.

Many of the vets that were inspired by Nicely are now furious about what has happened. And many others who have learned about this are very upset as well.

Nicely now has new challenges to face, and hopefully this time around he wont be ignored.

Read more: http://damn.com/quadruple-amputee-vet-shoots-himself-after-va-crisis-hotline-tells-him-to-calm-down-and-call-back/

On Memorial Day we Honor those who Served.

All gave some.

Some gave All.

Thank you for your Service.

#1u . http://t.co/Bt9Go7I85x

— Marc Perrone (@Marc_Perrone) May 24, 2014

Anthony “Marc” Perrone is Secretary-Treasurer of the 1.3 million member United Food & Commercial Workers International Union. Unfortunately, he seems a bit unclear on the distinction between Veterans Day (to celebrate all veterans) and Memorial Day (to honor members of the U.S. armed forces who died in service to our country).

But that’s OK. President Obama doesn’t know the difference either.

Read more: http://twitchy.com/2014/05/25/union-honcho-on-memorial-day-we-honor-those-who-served/

http://twitter.com/#!/DrewGriffinCNN/status/464877224446156800

A “smoking gun” has surfaced in the scandal currently rocking the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. In an email obtained by CBS News, a worker at the VA Medical Center in Cheyenne, Wyo., instructs others on how to game the scheduling system so as not to upset the front office.

http://twitter.com/#!/CBSEveningNews/status/464872728429096961

Jennifer Janisch reports:

The email, written by Telehealth Coordinator David Newman, a registered nurse, describes how patients at the Cheyenne VA Medical Center are always listed getting appointments within a 14-day window, no matter when the appointment was first requested, and no matter how long the patient actually waited.

The memo admitted, “Yes, this is gaming the system a bit…” because “when we exceed the 14 day measure, the front office gets very upset, which doesn’t help us.”

The employee further instructs staff on how to “get off the bad boys list” by “cancelling the visit (by clinic) and then rescheduling it with a desired date within that 14 day window.”

Just yesterday, Congress issued a subpoena to VA Secretary Eric Shinseki seeking emails and documents related to delays of medical care for veterans at a Phoenix, Ariz., VA hospital. One retired doctor has alleged that as many as 40 veterans may have died while waiting for treatment.

http://twitter.com/#!/nadabakos/status/464885317300801536

Today on CNN, Sen. John McCain said that if the scandal “is what it appears to be, this isn’t just resignations, this is violations of the law, people should go to jail.”

http://twitter.com/#!/jaketapper/status/464886025547186176

Gaming the system at the expense of veterans’ health and even lives?

http://twitter.com/#!/lightning7876/status/464878179724058624
http://twitter.com/#!/combatyid/status/464879737656320002
http://twitter.com/#!/yoopermoma/status/464881204651511809
http://twitter.com/#!/ctbauza/status/464882627326255105

Fellow veterans,
The next time the enemy is firing at you, just "game the system" and ask them to shoot 14 days from now.
@CBSEveningNews— KerryL (@kerrloud) May 09, 2014

http://twitter.com/#!/seanagnew/status/464883106487730177

 

 

 

Read more: http://twitchy.com/2014/05/09/smoking-gun-email-shows-veterans-affairs-office-gaming-the-scheduling-system/

http://twitter.com/#!/RonPaul/status/298477312876355585

We know former Rep. Ron Paul has some wacky ideas about national defense and foreign policy, but this is truly beyond the pale even for him.

@ronpaul So all veterans, once done serving our nation with honor, deserve to be murdered as civilians? Wow.

— Razor (@hale_razor) February 4, 2013

I didn’t think I could possibly loathe @ronpaul more, yet here we are. Well done, jackass.

— The H2 (@TheH2) February 4, 2013

Disgusted by most recent @ronpaul tweet.

— Ben Domenech (@bdomenech) February 4, 2013

@ronpaul For shame.

— Melissa Clouthier (@MelissaTweets) February 4, 2013

This is appalling. twitter.com/RonPaul/status…

— John Podhoretz (@jpodhoretz) February 4, 2013

Yikes. That is horrible. RT @bdomenech: Disgusted by most recent @ronpaul tweet.

— Nathan Wurtzel (@NathanWurtzel) February 4, 2013

@ronpaul‘s tweet seems to confirm that Ron Paul is an idiot

— JWF (D) (@JammieWF) February 4, 2013

Grandpa’s talking to the furniture again twitter.com/RonPaul/status…

— David Burge (@iowahawkblog) February 4, 2013

Related:

Twisted ghouls descend on murder victim, American hero Chris Kyle

Mother Jones editor dances on Chris Kyle’s grave to argue for gun control

Update:

Buzzfeed confirms that Ron Paul runs his own Twitter feed:

Former Texas Rep. Ron Paul has been attracting negative attention all day for a tweet he sent Monday morning regarding the death of former Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle at the hands of an Iraq War veteran. But get used to off-the-cuff Twitter activity from the former presidential candidate: Paul, 77, is now running his own Twitter feed, a spokesperson says.

“He runs it,” said Campaign for Liberty communications director Megan Stiles, who is handling Paul’s press requests since he retired. She clarified that Paul started handling his own tweets “since he left office.”

Update:

Yes, Ron Paul, some veterans with PTSD go to the gun range for therapy

Read more: http://twitchy.com/2013/02/04/disgusting-ron-paul-attacks-murder-victim-war-hero-chris-kyle/